Saturday, December 11, 2010

Le méteo et le metro

I was talking to my mom today and I realized that I hadn't blogged in so long that I actually forgot what I blogged about.  She told me I was talking about the snow.  And I have to say, watching the huge flakes fall from the sky so silently was pretty neat.  I used to complain that every time I went to a cold place that all I got was the cold, not the snow.  But not so here.  I got the SNOW!

But snow comes at a price.  A very high price.  On Wednesday we got probably six hours of snow fall.  From all of the Parisians I've talked to that was the most they had seen in snow in over a decade.  The snow was sticking and people were having snowball fights.  We must have gotten three or four inches of snow.  But the real difficulty came the following day.

Every day since Wednesday was just a little bit warmer.  And what happens to snow when the weather warms up a little? Yup, it starts to melt.  But because it was literally a difference of one or two degrees, the snow couldn't melt completely.  Instead it just turned into a disgusting mixture of city and ice.  The four inches of snow became about two inches of ice and an inch of water.  The cuffs of your pants stood no chance.  It's a good thing I had semi water resistant shoes.  Now if only that had any traction.... I almost slipped on that deadly deadly mixture of gross about four times.

The last of the snow finally melted off yesterday.  Now the weather is actually warm (relatively speaking).  Instead of being below freezing we got up to the high thirties today!  It makes me so sad that the high thirties are warm to me...  I need to get back to CA and back to my 72˚ weather all year round... But the one good thing about Paris is that the metro is completely underground and therefore covered from the elements.

That brings me to another thing I wanted to write.  I've been thinking about this for a long time and I've come to the conclusion that riding the Parisian metro at rush hour is a a pretty good metaphor for my study abroad.

First of all, you need to figure out what the hell you are doing.  When I got off the plane I had no idea what I was in for.  That part of the metro journey is going from street level down into the depths that is the Paris metro system.

Ok, so now you have some sort of direction.  Now you just need to get some guidance.  I guess that came in the orientation program for me.  I met some of my closest friends (including my roommate) through that program.  I guess that would be liking going to the guichet and getting your Navigo card (the regular transit card).  Now you can get into the metro when ever you want for the month.  You have gained access, the first major step to creating your life in Paris.

Now that you know how to get into the metro, you have to figure out how to go places.  You get your map and start figuring out the connections.  Does it make sense to take line 14 to line 10 to get from Montmarte to the Latin Quarter or should I take the 14 to the 1 and walk from Concorde and stop at the Louvre before going?  See, its those kind of decisions you are now capable of making.  Now that you have a group of friends, you can start getting your life figured out.  For me that was getting the apartment, and trying to tackle the insane hell hole that is the French bureaucracy.  Getting the Carte de Séjour and trying to open the bank account.

But of course, remember that it is rush hour.  Even though you know where you need to go and even how you are going to get there, it doesn't mean the journey is going to be easy.  There will be trains that are already so full of people you can't get on.  That may be, just as a hypothetical, like a bank saying that they refuse to open your account even though you have brought them proof of residency twice.  Of course that is just a hypothetical.

When you make it onto the train, you are stuck amongst the hundred plus people, most of whom are sweating because of the close proximity to you, and in true french fashion seemed to have forgotten their deodorant.  But with every stop, more people get off the train and your journey becomes easier and easier.  Maybe you completed your exposés, or you went on some trips, or you just spoke in French to people with out them responding to you in English.

Despite the metro car now being relatively empty, it wouldn't be French if something unexpected didn't happen.  You could experience the homeless man throwing a turkey drumstick bone that nearly misses your head and instead lands just opposite from your seat.  That could be, again hypothetically, a letter from the bank that you tried to close your account at congratulating you for finally opening your account and that you were eligible for a prize even though you went into the branch, signed a letter saying you wanted to close your account, then had someone call your cell phone two weeks after you did that asking if you still had your account open, to which you replied no.  Again, strictly hypothetically.

But finally, when you get comfortable in the metro car, not surrounded by people, you've made all your connections, then you reach your destination and its time to go.  I feel like that is how this semester went.  I just got here, but I will be back in the good ole US of A in one week from today.  But I have realized this:

What ever doesn't kill you just makes you more French.

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